Counselling Conversations
...turning things around

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One of the pleasures of my job as psychotherapist and counsellor is the opportunity that it affords me to get to know people.

In doing this, I hopefully understand them in a way that they understand themselves and in the possibilities and potentialities that they may have overlooked. This is an ongoing process as they change and opportunities arise or fall away.

As such, I am always making a 'transitive diagnosis' in terms of how a person construes their situation and where they might be blocked in coming up with a way forward for themselves that allows them to live more fully, no matter how difficult or seemingly desperate a situation initially appears to be.

In doing this, I rely on my training in Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) and a general faith in people's ability to help themselves when they experience understanding and acceptance of how they construe the world. This approach recognises that each person is in a sense their own expert on their own life. It recognises both that they will experience themselves and their life in their own unique way while recognising that their are general ways of living that can be more or less helpful. As a 'psychology for living,’ PCP applies as much to me in my professional role, private life as it does to my client.

In all this, it approaches people's problems not as something to be fitted into a particular box to access services, insurance or medication. It does not approach people as being mentally ill or subject to mental disease but as people with life problems that can be helped through psychological understanding and sometimes medication. In this, it differs from the traditional disease model of mental health exemplified by the publication of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. It has come in for a lot of press coverage and criticism including from the British Psychological Society Clinical Psychology Division who have in a statement questioned the whole basis of DSM and diagnosis in mental health on the basis of a disease model. They have helpfully called for a new approach that recognises both the experience of people who are given a diagnosis as well as their social and relational situations. This is to be welcomed as it recognises the need for a system to help people access the services they need, without trapping them behind the label while allowing their own experience and voice to be heard to get the help they need to find a life which will hopefully allow them to feel more alive - which is my favourite definition of mental health and help.


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